Monday, June 17, 2024
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The Mombasa Route: A growing trend in Ethiopian freight logistics

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By Muluken Yewondwossen

In response to the logistical challenges plaguing the traditional trade routes through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Ethiopian freight operators are increasingly turning to the Mombasa route as a viable alternative. Despite initial concerns from logistics operators, recent months have seen a surge in the use of Mombasa Port in Kenya, signaling a significant shift in Ethiopia’s freight transportation landscape.

The catalyst for this shift stems from delays experienced by inbound and outgoing cargo at ports in Djibouti, attributed to vessel operators reducing their operations along the Red Sea route. With vessels navigating the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden facing security risks, including attacks by Houthi militants in Yemen, shipping corporations have been compelled to seek alternative routes to ensure the timely and safe delivery of goods.

Despite its higher operational costs compared to Djibouti, Mombasa has emerged as a preferred option for Ethiopian freight due to its relative stability and efficiency. Anteneh Alemu, CEO of Pave Logistics and Trading PLC, reports that approximately 15 trucks are now making the journey to Mombasa weekly, transporting goods vital for Ethiopia’s economy.

The Mombasa route has particularly benefited industrial hubs such as Hawassa, Bole Lemi, Debre Berhan, and Adama, where manufacturers rely heavily on timely imports of raw materials and exports of finished goods. By circumventing the delays and security risks associated with the Red Sea route, businesses operating in these industrial parks have been able to maintain steady production levels, contributing to Ethiopia’s economic growth.

However, navigating the bureaucratic landscape of cross-border trade poses its own set of challenges. Unlike the streamlined processes observed in the Djibouti corridor, transporters using the Mombasa route must contend with stringent permit requirements for each entry into Kenya. This bureaucratic burden not only slows down the movement of goods but also adds to operational costs, impacting the overall efficiency of freight transportation.

Industry experts emphasize the need for Ethiopia and Kenya to establish protocols aimed at facilitating smoother truck traffic along the Mombasa route. While operational one-stop shops in border towns like Moyale offer some respite, additional agreements are needed to streamline cargo movements and reduce paperwork. Efforts to bolster these facilities with pertinent agreements would expedite the movement of goods, benefiting both countries’ economies.

Despite the logistical complexities and increased costs associated with the Mombasa route, manufacturers are compelled to continue production to avoid idle labor forces. The economic imperatives of maintaining production levels outweigh the challenges posed by bureaucratic obstacles. However, ongoing efforts to address these hurdles, such as passport requirements and permit applications, are crucial for sustaining and expanding freight movements along this route.

As Ethiopia seeks to enhance its access to regional ports, including those in Kenya, it must prioritize efforts to improve cross-border trade facilitation. Collaborative initiatives between government authorities, industry stakeholders, and international partners are essential for overcoming existing challenges and unlocking the full potential of the Mombasa route. By addressing logistical bottlenecks and streamlining administrative processes, Ethiopia can capitalize on the opportunities presented by its evolving freight transportation landscape.

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